lisa monaghan

Newcomer (1972). The Nuer are Dinka. An Essay on Origins and Environmental Determinism

This short article will use an example from the Nilotic Sudan to outline a process of socio-cultural change and development. Although the argument is restricted to the historical relationship of the Nuer and Dinka, there seems little reason to doubt that the process of fission and subsequent cultural differentiation outlined here could be used to account for the origin of many specific cultures, if not indeed of all cultures. I am using a particular example, for which literature is readily available, to illustrate what may be a very general and widespread kind of social evolution, a sequence of events the logic of which would account for the emergence of sociocultural entities as such. As a processual account, the present article will focus more closely upon the logic of Nuer-Dinka social history than upon the empirical features of that history; the object of the article is to show causation in what happened rather than to present an impeccably factual account. I am more interested in the relations between facts, than in the facts themselves. This article will neither disregard facts, however, nor treat them lightly, but logical relations are the key to its success or failure as an explanation of how things came to be the way they are in the ethnographic present of the Nilotic Sudan. The purpose here is to set up a scheme which will generate these present facts.

Category: Anthropology and History

Sub-category: Socio-Cultural Groups and Practices